Welcome back for the second installment of my episode-by-episode breakdown of leadership skills found in HBO’s “Band of Brothers. Today were going to look at Episode 2: Day of Days.
Day of Days begins during the night drop of the Army Airborne soldiers behind the lines of Normandy, the night before the D-Day Invasion. As the crew of Easy Company flies towards their target, the audience watchers at the planes fly through a hail of anti-aircraft fire. Easy Company end up dropping too soon and as a result must spend the night hiking to their rendezvous point. After finally making it, they are tasked with taking out 3 artillery units that are currently firing on the naval ships bringing soldiers in for the D-Day invasion.
Just like episode 1, this episode focuses on the leadership skills of Lt. Winners. The first lesson we can learn from Winners is to instill confidence. As the crew of Easy Company are getting closer to their drop point, as they fly into enemy fire, you can see the men beginning to get nervous. Throughout this event Winners keeps his cool. At this point, he’s the only thing keeping his men together.
As a leader, people look to you for direction, especially when things seem to be falling apart. If a project isn’t going well, its your job to inspire confidence and keep morale high. It can mean the difference between success and failure. When I’m leading teams in the fire department, if my confidence waivers, my crew’s confidence waivers, and this can lead to panic, which infinitely raises the risk of an already dangerous situation. However, in contrast, if my team members aren’t confident in an operation, my confidence in the situation will put their worries at ease and will ensure a smooth operation. Your confidence level sets the pace for the entire project, so keep it high!
The next lesson we can learn from Winters is to be decisive. During the siege of the heavy artillery, Winters gives clear precise orders, and this leads to Easy Company successfully disarming them. Even in the hail of gunfire from the Germans, Winters makes it known exactly what he wants each man to do. This clear direction makes sure that the assault on the heavy artillery are coordinated and no person was freelancing (a term we use in the fire service for people who aren’t doing an assigned task, just acting of their own accord).
Giving clear orders and expectations is key for accomplishing any task. Once the chain of command breaks down and goals and outlooks aren’t being followed, then the entire project or operation breaks down. This is a common problem when leaders are chosen not because of leadership abilities, but because of seniority.
My current rank at the firehouse is Lieutenant, but many look to me as the unofficial Assistant Chief. I make decisions, and by no means are they always right, but I make plans and we stick to them, until they don’t work, then we back up and try something else. A few of my co-lieutenants are only in their positions because of the time they’ve been on the department, not because of their abilities. They are always hesitant to make decisions, and when no decisions are made, it leads to freelancing, which dramatically increases the risk of injury or death on a fire scene. The same problem happens when any leader is hesitant to make decisions. Once members of a group have turned to making decisions for themselves, projects get skewed, and goals and objectives get lost.
With those two lessons in the books, we’ll hit it again next week as I break down episode 3! I hope you’re having as much fun reading this as I am watching the episodes and breaking them down!